Fix on the way for crumbling creek trail

Water district picks contractor to stop bank erosion on Stevens Creek

With only a month left before the start of the rainy season, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is moving fast on emergency repairs to save what's left of the creek bank along a crumbling stretch of Stevens Creek Trail north of El Camino Real in Mountain View.

The water district is aiming to hire a contractor and get started within the next two weeks on remedial work to prevent rapid soil erosion along the creek bank between El Camino Real and Yuba Drive. Water district CEO Norma Camacho designated the deterioration of the creek bank an "emergency" last month, empowering the district to skip the traditional bidding process in favor of fast action.

The creek trail segment has been out of commission since January, when a wet and windy storm season caused a portion of the creek bank to slough off, causing trees and loose soil to tumble into the creek bed and prompting city staff to close off that length of the trail for safety reasons. Despite the dry summer, erosion unexpectedly went from bad to worse during July and August, causing a 60-foot portion of the paved trail to cave in, according to an Aug. 18 staff memo. The continuing erosion now threatens the city's recently opened trail detour through the adjacent hotel property as well as a nearby row of redwood trees.

Water district staff have yet to decide on a repair method, but are considering what's called soil-nail or soldier pile repairs as a method of stabilizing the soil. The technique could extend into the nearby hotel property, and the hotel's management has tentatively agreed to allow the repair work. The estimated cost of soil-nail repairs is estimated at $745,000, but the true cost will not be known until the project is completed.

Although district staff chose a contractor last week for the project, Hayward Baker Inc., the district had to stop negotiations after the company unexpectedly backed out, according to Ngoc Nguyen, the water district's deputy operating officer for watersheds design and construction. The contractor refused to indemnify the district or Extended Stay Hotel, Nguyen told water district board members Tuesday, forcing staff to revise the scope of work and go back to three potential contractors who earlier expressed interest in the work.

"We are hopeful that we will be able to execute the scope of work for the emergency repair and issue the notice to proceed within two weeks from today," Nguyen said.

Board member Gary Kremen, who represents North County cities including Mountain View, said the decision by Hayward Baker Inc. not to sign the district's standard contract is highly unusual, and he has no idea why the company refused to sign it. And with so little time between now and the rainy season, any delay can spell trouble for the creek.

"My worry is that this will slow things down," Kremen said.

Though the project is designed to stop the bleeding, rather than make permanent repairs that will reconstitute the trail, the remedial work is expected to reduce the costs of permanent repairs to restore the bank, according to the water district staff report. The temporary trail detour through the hotel property, which was opened by the city in June, is likely to be closed during the emergency repair work, according to a district staff report.

The water district received numerous comments from Mountain View city leaders, Google officials and residents of Mountain View, Los Altos and Sunnyvale attesting to the importance of the trail as a commute path as well as a recreation facility. Mayor Ken Rosenberg called the trail a "vital recreational and transportation facility" used by thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians every day, giving residents an alternative to the city's roadways.

The trail is an "extremely important" resource, Google's real estate director John Igoe wrote in a letter to the water district last month. He said the transportation corridor acts as an alternative to local streets as well as Highway 85, and the erosion is only going to get worse without some kind of emergency action.

"Without immediate repairs, the levee will likely worsen over the winter, driving up costs and possibly making a permanent repair to the trail extremely expensive and potentially even unfeasible," Igoe wrote. "That would be a tremendous loss, a loss that might be avoidable through swift action."

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


13 people like this
Posted by Ken G.
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Sep 14, 2017 at 11:53 am

They knew about the problem since January and now it's an emergency?
If they acted sooner they would've been able to get competitive bids.

15 people like this
Posted by Ross Heitkamp
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 14, 2017 at 3:03 pm

I hope they can get started and work quickly so that they might save the about 30 feet of trail with a big crack running through it. Then again, that makes working around there quite precarious so not sure what they can do. But looking forward to work getting started.

9 people like this
Posted by Oh waaah
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2017 at 4:55 pm

It slid in January...there was a TON of rain after that for MONTHS, . Should they have started the work without knowing the real amount of damage the winter would be causing? No, that would be something only an idiot would do.

Once the exact nature of the winter's damage was known, they started the long drawn-out process of repairs, but now they can declare an emergency to bypass all the red tape that process causes. Seems like a good plan.
Some people look so very hard to (try to) find any negative about their pet peeve group.

3 people like this
Posted by Jes' Sayin'
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2017 at 10:29 pm

Feel somehow this is in error.

Do you love nature? Well this is nature in action. Trying to stop nature is generally a fool's errand. If it's going to collapse, let it collapse. Just keep moving the trail such that it does in a safe place.

Trying to stop probably isn't going to work for very long.

3 people like this
Posted by Just on the trail
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2017 at 6:33 am

I love the SCT! Good to see repairs coming after this record breaking winter.

3 people like this
Posted by reader
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2017 at 9:15 am

I like that name "Crumbling Creek." Who was Crumbling?

13 people like this
Posted by Charles Crumbling
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2017 at 10:06 am

Jasper Crumbling was my great grandfather. He would sit on the banks of creeks and break cookies into tiny pieces then scatter them into the creek. Many would say he was crazy and would not amount to anything, but I'm glad to see his work honored.

15 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2017 at 12:43 pm

If this was a major car commuting route in the middle of the city, they would have fixed it immediately. Since it is a bicycle commuting route, they decided to put off repairs until next year. They are only accelerating the work know that they realized that delaying was really stupid.

5 people like this
Posted by Stomping little feet
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2017 at 1:28 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

7 people like this
Posted by @Resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2017 at 6:33 am

In your expert opinion and knowledge of the issues that surround it, what month do you think should they have started the work?

7 people like this
Posted by @Resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2017 at 6:43 am

Also, do you find the current detour they put up some time ago after negotiating with the land owner daunting or otherwise hard to negotiate?
I never once saw traffic backing up on the trail like I would see of a roadway washed out so yes, I bet a road would be fixed more quickly, in fact I would demand they prioritize the road fix. How much time do you think the detour adds to your commute or otherwise negatively impacts you and others?
You see where I'm going here. Sorry, just needed to shine the perspective light on things.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Beer and brats: Ludwig's German Table coming to Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 3,437 views

Who Pays for Palo Alto Schools
By Steve Levy | 38 comments | 1,900 views

The Other Greenhouse Gas
By Sherry Listgarten | 8 comments | 1,775 views

College Tours
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,021 views

Couples: Thanks
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 531 views